Trade agreements hold democracy hostage

By Nancy Churchill
Contributor

Did you ever dream that profit could eclipse the right to life in America? That a secret clause known as the ISDS (Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement), buried deep within so-called “free trade” agreements such as NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), creates a foreign corporation power to overrule enforcement of U.S. laws such as the COOL (Country of Origin Labeling) Act, which allows you to know where your meat comes from? Because the ISDS grants foreign corporations the right to sue if they believe U.S. laws protecting our right to life will cost them future profits.

Salon.com (1/8/2016) referred to the ISDS as “a dystopian world in which secretive and corrupt corporate courts circumvent the justice system and unaccountable private companies have more power than governments, holding democracy hostage.”

The AFL-CIO defines it as “a special legal right that only those who invest in a foreign country can use to challenge a law, regulation, judicial or administrative ruling or any other government decision.” Such a law allows foreign corporations to “skip domestic courts, administrative procedures, city hall hearings and the like … and sue the host-country government before a panel of private ‘arbitrators.'” These arbitrators “have the power to make decisions in cases, but they are not democratically elected or appointed, and they are not subject to stringent conflict of interest rules.” Nor need they even be citizens of the country being sued.

As if to spotlight how dystopian is the threat buried within these trans-national trade deals, Trans-Canada recently announced a suit under NAFTA against our government for $15 billion for “lost profit” because intense public pressure had forced President Obama to reject its Keystone XL pipeline.

That illustrates perfectly how uniquely anti-democratic and un-American these trade deals are.

Proponents tout the creation of new jobs for Americans within the latest trade deal, the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), an argument debunked by huge manufacturing job losses since the passage of NAFTA in 1993.

A petition site is calling for Congress to reject the TPP [thepetitionsite.com/461/019/960/congress-stand-up-to-corporate-power-vote-no-on-the-tpp]. It points out that if the U.S. government loses this Trans-Canada case, “either the [Keystone XL Pipeline] goes ahead or we hand over a whole lot of taxpayer dollars.” But that will be only peanuts compared to the loss of sovereignty we face under the TPP.

The door is closing fast for public comment before the final Congressional vote on the TPP, just while the nation is most distracted with the presidential primary season. Don’t be deterred. It is up to us to save our democracy — nobody is going to do it for us. Call or write your Congressperson and Senators, and sign the petition now, urging them to “Just say NO!” to the TPP.

We desperately need a new trade model based upon our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — an alternative to the current dystopian template of secret pacts that favor the potential for corporate profits to prevail over laws protecting our land, air and water.

2 thoughts on “Trade agreements hold democracy hostage

  • January 20, 2016 at 12:20 am
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    Well said! Unfortunately, the smoke filled room and regulatory hijack have put a bullet in the skull of democracy in the west, the plutocrat and banker hold all the cards, and the ‘elected’ official is a fraud.
    As an ex-canadian, I can also report that your ‘nice’ northern neighbour is little more than a pale imitation of the old soviet union fully committed to the destruction of freedom and the planet in the name of profit and the primacy of the plutocrat. I do wish you well, but civil discourse has not worked for generations, the rot is too deep. After all, if voting worked, do you really think our masters would allow it? I fear radical surgery is required, though I am not sanguine this would save the patient. It’s far past pitchfork time, and the population is too conditioned and frankly, too dumb and self-centred to stand up and push back the darkness.

  • January 20, 2016 at 6:38 am
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    Congress recently repealed our Country of Origin Labeling laws for certain meats because we were under threat of more than one billion dollars a year in sanctions because of NAFTA. The vast majority of Americans want the protection of Country of Origin Labeling laws. Australia, BTW, would not be under threat of this type of lawsuit under the TPP because their negotiators refused to agree to it. Malaysia would get quite a number of rights that we would not get. And this right of multinational corporations to sue us – in tribunals where corporate lawyers are basically the judge and jury – if our laws conflicted with their “expected future profits”, is not the only threat to our sovereignty in the TPP. The TPP would also set up a panel of twelve nations whose votes would supersede the authority of our Congress, and thus our votes. World government, anyone? And China could join the TPP. As a matter of fact, Hillary Clinton already invited China to join when she was secretary of state. The TPP would send more jobs overseas – a recent Tufts University study concluded that close to half a million American jobs would be lost with the TPP – and it would bring in more foreign workers. Meanwhile, the TPP does little if anything to address currency manipulation and VAT taxes which other countries use to negate their lowering or elimination of tariffs. And many touted new markets would be in countries like Vietnam – the minimum wage in Vietnam is 65 cents an hour – where the general population cannot afford American made products.

    You can find out more about the Trans Pacific Partnership and how it could hurt us by googling Public Citizen. Senator Jeff Sessions, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Congressman Alan Grayson, and Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz are among those who are fierce opponents of the TPP. Please do call your senators and representative to tell them to Vote No to the TPP, but be aware that record numbers of people called to tell them to Vote No to Fast Track for the TPP and this was basically ignored. Petitions were also ignored. So if you can, it is important to do more about this extremely serious issue. You can find out other actions you can take by contacting organizations like Public Citizen and Food and Water Watch, which you can google. Please also tell as many people as you can what is going on because there has been very little about the TPP in the news. Thank you for doing anything that you can.

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